'Two hooks down' for Urban LegendDateline: 09/30/98
By David Emery
Want to know what kind of film critic I am? I dozed off about two-thirds of the way through this movie. If there was a good part, I must have missed it.
I'm tempted to say Urban Legend is the worst film of 1998, but I'd probably get flak for that someone could always throw The Avengers in my face. All I know is you'd have to dose me with Rohypnol to get me to this movie again.
Come to think of it, make it a double.
Reviewers are comparing Urban Legend to Wes Craven's Scream series, which is an injustice to the latter. Scream and Scream 2 were clever, funny, deftly-constructed films. Oh, and they were actually scary a good quality for a horror film to have. Urban Legend is none of these. You can tell when you're supposed to be amused, or frightened, or on the edge of your seat as a viewer. But Silvio Horta's script and Jamie Blanks' direction never succeed in getting you there.
The premise of the film, in case you missed the advance hype, is that someone on a college campus is slaughtering people by imitating scenarios from well-known urban legends. Seems like a promising gimmick in the abstract, but one of the film's biggest problems is that the high concept has to be explained within the story and the result is farfetched, if not downright silly.
I have to admit it was interesting to see several familiar legends brought to life on the big screen, even though a fair bit of license was taken in their portrayal. The thing to remember is that the plot of the movie hinges on a character imitating urban legends, not the real thing.
Keep your expectations low, is what I'm saying.
The Killer in the Back Seat plays out quite nicely. Brad Dourif, in the role of a stuttering gas station attendant, turns in the best performance of the film in this scene. It's too bad we're asked to believe that an axe-murderer in the back seat of a moving vehicle could successfully decapitate the car's driver and survive the crash to murder again.
A bawdy version of Aren't You Glad You Didn't Turn On the Light? actually verges on cleverness. Unfortunately, the entire set-up is implausible when you think about it much like the rest of the movie.
Flash Your Headlights and Die, the gang initiation legend, ends up having to bear far too much weight, plot-wise. One of the weaker moments in the story is a flashback to events supposedly explaining why all these horrible deeds are being done in the present. Be prepared to balk.
The Kidney Heist, featured in the denouement of the movie, really only gets a cursory nod, plot-wise, as the villain prepares to remove the protagonist's kidneys without anesthetic. It's a gruesome way to die, to be sure; but that's not what the legend is really about. Never has been.
Anyway, by the time the scalpels are hauled out for surgery, the film is nearly over. Our handsome hero will momentarily arrive on cue, the villain will be gorily dispatched, and true love will have its day.
At least, I think that's what happens. I walked out 15 minutes before the final credits rolled.
That's what kind of film critic I am.
Other legends depicted or mentioned in the film:
- Gerbil Stuffing - That bizarre activity that supposedly landed Richard Gere in the hospital.
- Love Roller Coaster - A song by the Ohio Players in which the real-life scream of a murdered woman is supposedly audible in the background.
- Mikey and the Pop Rocks - Pop Rocks + soda pop = dead child actor.
- Penis Captivus - Couple gets stuck in the missionary position!